Not all musicals are created equal! This statement though somewhat controversial is also true in the case of Guys and Dolls. Through a cacophony of street sounds and opening numbers we are transported to New York City. Its sights and sounds encapsulate the audience and we are introduced to the thoroughfare of characters that inhabit this strange world and its imaginings as Damon Runyon imagined it. The nitty, the gritty, and the downright ugly, these are the things that the underbelly of society shows us. And yet, we are drawn into it. Entranced! Unable to blink or look away in case we miss the most important part. This is the world that Guys and Dolls exhibits to us.
The show was brought to life by producers Cy Feuer and Ernest Martin. They sought to bring the stories of Damon Runyon to life and onto the theatrical stage. The Runyon stories were written in the aftermath of the First World War in the 1920s and 1930s. The original show premiered in the illustrious 46th street theatre on Broadway. The date was November 24, 1950. Guys and Dolls was an instant musical success running for a total of 1,200 performances. The success continued off stage with the awarding of five Tony Awards in 1951. Guys and Dolls also conquered the West End and the London Coliseum with 555 performances. Theatre People (T.P.) recently conversed with Anthony Bolger (Sky Masterson) and Jasmine Dare (J.D.) to discuss the upcoming Mountain District Musical Society production of Guys and Dolls.
T.P. Anthony and Jasmine, Guys and Dolls has been described by critics as 'being a perfect musical in all departments.' Do you agree with this assertion and if so, what aspects of the show present these assertions in a positive light to each of you?
A.B. I would definitely agree! It’s seen some of the most famous of stage and screen play its characters and for good reason. Guys and Dolls is one of those shows that has something for everyone. A blend of comedy, drama, action and romance, topped with big brassy numbers and some old classics.
J.D. I definitely agree! Guys & Dolls has everything you could possibly want in a musical. It is visually spectacular; the music is beautiful, passionate & exciting, and the story is both hilarious and very romantic. It explores elements of light and dark in every aspect. You can always count on this show to keep you guessing.
T.P. The show is based on several stories by American author Damon Runyon. His stories cover the gritty down and out underworld of babes, booze, and bullets. In some ways this covers topics that are dark and at the same time lightly comical. How have both of you approached your roles as Sky Masterson, "Gambler and swindler extraordinaire", and Sarah Brown, "angel in the streets"?
A.B. Youtube clips and Gangster Movies… No look, Sky is not a complicated character, he’s overconfident and sometimes arrogant yet always charming. Everything he does, he does with class. I think you always bring some of yourself to every character you play as well so hopefully people enjoy that.
J.D. Right from my first reading of the script I sensed that there was much more to Sarah Brown than what appears on the surface. Sarah Brown is a girl who has grown up in a very sheltered life, and has been raised with strong values, as well as a very black & white sense of right & wrong. Along with Sarah’s ‘well-known’ traits, I have also tried to layer Sarah with a number of personality traits that clash with her stereotype and her personal identity. As well as being sweet, innocent, loyal, and kind, I believe she also has a darker side to her that is fiery, adventurous, and mischievous; which she doesn’t fully allows herself to express until she meets Sky Masterson; which could explain why he is so appealing to her.
T.P. Anthony, Sky Masterson is described as a Gambler in the show's synopsis. Are there any other special traits that you bring to the role?
A.B. Besides overconfidence, Arrogance! No I suppose if I had to pick one that’s relevant to the role I’d say I can be somewhat charming when I need to be. And also humble.
T.P. Jasmine, the role of Sarah Brown is pivotal to the show's central plot line. She is a central character within the Save-A-Soul Mission. What are you bringing to the character that will set her apart from other productions of the show?
J.D. In other productions of Guys & Dolls I have seen; Sarah Brown always seems to be presented in a way that is slightly unlikeable in the beginning. She can be portrayed as being quite authoritative, preachy, argumentative & judgemental; whereas in this production of Guys & Dolls; Tyler & I have been working on bringing a much softer, feminine, youthful and a slightly shy and awkward energy to Sarah Brown, which I think will make the audience love her right from the start.
T.P. Anthony, what insights do you have on life now that you have played a character like Sky?
A.B. All Dolls are the same?? No you know what… And I’m sure I’m not alone in this but I had no idea how to play craps before this show. Now I have a vague understanding of the game.
T.P. Jasmine, what is the musical highlight of the show for you?
J.D. ‘Luck be a lady’ is certainly my favourite number in this show. The performers bring so much energy and intensity to it that you can’t tear your eyes away from them; but also surprisingly, what started off as my least favourite song in the show has become one of the major the musical highlights for me. ‘More I cannot wish you’ sung by the wonderful Dot Parker as Agnes Abernathy is truly stunning! It has a touching & caring intention behind it and sounds absolutely beautiful. I won’t reveal too much about it, but I think we can expect a few tears in the audience by the end of the number.
T.P. Jasmine, finish the following sentence: If I could be any Musical Theatre character, I would be… because…
J.D. Sarah Brown actually! She is young and beautiful, she lives in the vibrant city of New York, she marries the man she loves, and she’s only a short plane ride away from Havana.
T.P. Anthony, finish the following sentence: If I could be any Musical Theatre character, I would be… because…
A.B. Danny Zuko (Grease)……… Because he’s Danny Zuko!!! My dream role though is Jean Val Jean (Les Miserables)
T.P. Anthony and Jasmine, it's opening night. The theatre lights have just dimmed. What are the thoughts going through your respective heads as you step out onto stage for that first performance?
A.B. To be honest, I think the feeling takes over by that stage. I don’t ever remember specific thoughts going through my head but I can always remember the feeling of excitement and nerves building inside and the rush as I’m about to step on to the stage.
J.D. I’m pretty sure it’ll be something like …“I know you’re excited but remember to breathe!!”
Mountain District Musical Society's production of Guys and Dolls runs from June 13, 2014 to June 21, 2014. The show can be seen at the Karralyka Centre Mines Road, Ringwood. Further information can be found at the MDMS website.